Workshop Make-over

This will be the first of what I will call “retro-posts” because they are about something that’s not current. But the website is new and I want to cover a few things from the recent past.

In January of this year (2021) the powers that be in Ontario decided to confine everyone to their homes, a.k.a. a “lockdown” due to Covid-19. I decided to take advantage of the time to fix up my long neglected basement workshop.

I had built a gun cart for my new hobby of Cowboy Action Shooting in December and the shortfalls of my workshop became very apparent.

I had the components of a dust collection system that I had gotten from my Dad. It had been laying in the shop for years, unused. I had all the pipes, gates and fittings and I ran them to my various tools.

But I needed a vacuum source! I considered using our Central Vac system, but in the end I opted for a stand alone system utilizing my old shop-vac for suction.

Shop-Vac for dust collection

Once again, YouTube came to the rescue and I found a design that would work well with the equipment I had while not breaking the bank. A cyclone separator from Amazon and a 5 gallon bucket from Home Hardware capture 99% of the dust and keep the shop-vac empty and its filter clean.

Connecting the Dust Collection system to my table saw

In order to connect the dust collection system to my table saw, I added 5 panels to enclose the lower portion of the saw. Some fittings from Lee Valley allow for quick connection of a vacuum hose when using the saw.

The next thing I wanted to do was to add an extension to my table saw to accommodate bigger pieces. My first attempt was to stick a workmate at the side of the table with a makeshift platform level with the saw top. The workmate was being used to mount my router table, so that presented another issue.

So I decided to build a new table for my router. Here’s a photo of the end result.

Router table with scissor jack and dust collection

Table construction was simple 2×2, 2×4 and 3/4 inch plywood. I got some ideas off of YouTube and added a scissor jack to raise and lower the router. It actually works pretty good! I also added a switch and double outlet to make it easier to turn the router off and on. I can plug in a light on the second outlet so it comes on and off with the router.

Back to the table saw. In addition to the extension, I wanted to add a push-off table to extend the table in the direction that you push the wood through. Again, this makes it easier to cut larger pieces.

Push-off table under construction

In the photo above, you can see the workmate (at right) that was my first extension and the frame for the push-off table. I found a 3D design program called Sketchup that I used to design the push-off table. It wasn’t necessary, but I enjoyed learning how to use it.

Table saw with extension and push-off table

I still had the old kitchen counter tops that we had replaced the previous year – I knew I kept them for some reason! I cut them up to form the tops of the tables. They make a really nice smooth surface!

Notice in the photo that the original extension has been replaced. I liked the push-off table so much I built a new extension in a similar manner. And I just happened to have a piece of counter top with a 45 deg corner!

Extension table with drawers

I had saved some old drawers from a dresser from my Mom & Dad’s place. The original veneer was peeling off so I removed it all, but I saved the original handles. These drawers added some storage to the extension table. Laminate floor boards were cut to cover the face of the table and also for the edge around the table-top.

Table Saw with extension table finished

A little varnish to the drawer fronts and it’s done!

Speaking of storage – that’s always a problem in a workshop! While surfing YouTube videos I learned about as system called French cleats. It looked easy to make and seemed to work well. The best thing about French cleats is you can rearrange your storage at any time because nothing is mounted permanently, except for the wall cleat.

Hand made toolbox mounted with French cleats

Just grab and lift and whatever is mounted on the French cleat comes right off when you want to use it. And it can go back anywhere there’s space on the cleat system.

Saw rack on French Cleats

That about covers what I did to my workshop in January during the lockdown. I’m really happy with the result and I have a nice little shop to work on projects.

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